Saturday, January 24, 2015

Pasturing easier on the animal and makes a healthier roast.

Increasingly, Hawai`i restaurants are serving home grown, pasture fed beef and lamb, and new evidence suggests that’s healthier for you than feedlot meat.

It goes without saying that pasturing is easier on the animals, too.

(Image: St. Croix sheep. Credit, USDA Agricultural Research Service.)

A new study suggests lamb that comes from pasture-raised sheep has higher levels of healthier fat than other sheep. It goes on to say that changing the mix of plants in the pasture can further increase the benefit.

The report, Opportunities and Implications of Pasture-Based Lamb Fattening to Enhance the Long-Chain Fatty Acid Composition in Meat is in the journal, Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.

“Pasture naturally enhances the proportion of long-chain fatty acids in meat and often enriches the meat with antioxidants,” they write.

It’s a complex paper, but the upshot is that the fats in pasture-raised animals are healthier for humans than grain-fed, and also that the fat from animals that grazed in pastures with diverse food sources instead of just grass were also preferable.

Pasturing, the study says, increases the polyunsaturated fatty acids in meat. 

The Centers for Disease Control says that’s a preferable kind of fat to eat. “Most of the fat that you eat should come from unsaturated sources: polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats.”

“Recent studies have investigated the influences of grazing animals on botanically diverse pastures on the fatty acid composition of meat. ‘Botanically diverse’ typically refers to mixed pastures of native origin and can include a range of grass, legume, and herb species. Differences in composition are especially apparent when animals graze on diverse pastures in mountainous areas, compared with those grazed in monoculture lowlands,” the lamb report authors write.

Although that paper is brand new, published this month, the concept that diet makes a difference in meat and milk isn’t new, of course.

In the Italian Alps, dairy farmers know that they get different cheeses from milk from cattle pastured in high mountain versus lower fields. A 2012 study on this is in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. It’s entitled, Characterization of two Agrostis-Festuca Alpine pastures and their influence on cheese composition.

A 2014 Denmark study found that fatty acid composition changes with diet. It’s in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry: Biohydrogenation of Fatty Acids Is Dependent on Plant Species and Feeding Regimen of Dairy Cows
It suggests that the old saying, you are what you eat, applies to all of us.

(On a side note, many of us may recall that being and eating phrase from the back-to-the-land movements of the last few decades, but it’s much older. 

(In 1826, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote—in French—“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you what you are.” By all accounts, Brillat-Savarin liked to eat, and ate a lot. He was a French lawyer and politician, but he mostly wrote about food.

(His term got to English, as best I can determine, in the 1940s, when Victor Lindlahr wrote a book, You Are What You Eat.”)

© Jan TenBruggencate 2015

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